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Full text of "The official character and duty of the gospel messenger : a sermon preached in St. Paul's Church, Edenton, N.C., April 30, 1820, upon the occasion of admitting William Hooper and Thomas Wright, as deacons, and the Rev'd Richard S. Mason, to the holy office of priesthood"

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Sk s; 

l?veac\\e)3L in St. Paulas C"h\iTch, "EiAentou 

N. C. APRIL 30, 1820. 







Hector of St, James Clmrcli, VVi'mington, N. C, 

iPapf ttebille : 





The Author deems it an act o/* justice to 
himseifj to state^ that the following Sermon 
was written without the remotest -prospect 
of its ever being submitted to the public^ 
and that it owes its publication to the re- 
quest of the Convention of the Protestant 
Episcopal Churchy in the State of Norths 


Malachi— Chapter 2d, Verse 7. 

" The Priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek 
«' the law at his mouth. For he is the Messenger of the Lord of 
« Hosts." 

Three things, liere, present themselves to our notire. 
1st. The Official Character of the Gospel Minister. He is the 
Messenger of the Lord of Husts. 

2d. The duty of the Gospel Minister. His lips must keep know 

3d. The Duty cf his Flock. They must seek the law at his 

"We shall briefly consider these in the order stated. 

First—The Official Character of the Gospel Minister.— 
He is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts. He cornes neitlier 
unsolicited nor unauthorised. - His authority is not assumea* 
but duly conferred ; and he is distinguished from others by 
being sent as the Ambassador of Jesus Christ. If he is sin- 
cere in his professions, the Divine Spirit, "• from whom all 
holy desires proceed," has inwardly moved and called him 
to the work of the Ministry. Those successors of the Apos 
ties, who are invested with the ordaining power, have cIoth_ 
ed him with a valid external commission. He addresses us, 
**^ not as the ambassador of man, but, as the Minister of God, 
_ . the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts. He comes as the di* 


vinely appointed ''legate of tlie skies," lie \vho said, "Lo 
I am with you always, even unto the end of tlie woild," ap- 
pointed an order of men that was never to hecome extinct, 
and whose authority was to he transmitted, through an nn- 
b!- ken line of ministerial succession, unto the end of time. 
Deriving their appointment and their authority, from tliis 
source, the duly ordained and qualified jMinistcrs of the 
Gospel do not take too much upon tliemsilves, when t]i<.y 
address us, in the language of the x\postlc — " Now tlien we 
are Embassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech 
you, by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be je reconciled 
unto God." 

As the authoriUj of the Gospel Messenger, sohis viessage 
also, is divine. For man to know the will of God, unless 
God is pleased to reveal it. and to he authoi-ised to preach 
that will, unless that authority comes from Heaven, are two 
things equally impossible. God alone, is competent to teach 
us what truths we ought to believe, and what duties we 
ought to practice. To guess at the wil 1 of God, and to m akc 
oursel ves, by our own authority, the Messengers of the Lord 
of Hosts, would be equally vain and presumptuous. AViien 
an earthly King sends an Ambassador to a foreign Court, he 
not only gives him authority to act, but he also accompanies 
that atithority with instructions. A messenger necessarily 
implies a message. 

Further, the King of Heaven would not send messengei-s, 
except upon business relating to his Jdvgdom ; nor would he 
employ such agents, except in matters of great im-poriancC' 

Accordingly, the Ministers of the Gospel come in the 
name of God, to proclaim his laws and to manage the spi- 
ritual affairs of his earthly kingdom. Their object is, to 
♦< turn men from darkness to light aud from the power of 

Satan lo serve ilic living God." Tlii.s office wiJl be neces- 
sary, as long- us man icnmiiis a siniiei'. And to this extent, 
has the gi-eat head of the Church made provision, by ap- 
pointing an orderof men, who are to perpetuate themselves 
by successively ord&ining olhcrs as long as time endures and 
M 1:0 are to encrease the luimber of tlieir order, until the 
\v!u>Ie earth is supjdied witii them. For he, wiio a|)pointc(l 
tho Christiim Embassy, saidio tiiem, <' As my Father hath 
fient me. so send I ^ ou. Lo, I am Mitli you always, even ur.- 
to Ihe end of the world."' And he accoidingly commanded 
them, to ''go and teach all nations f.nd to preach the Gospel 
to ev(>!y creature.." I'hey are then, the messengers of the 
Lo?xi of Hosts, to proclaim the laws of his Kingdom, to 
leach the ie;noi-ant, to warn the disobedTent, to bring back 
the wanderer, to comfort the mournej-, to help the weak, to 
subdue the lebelliojis^ in line, the blessings of 
the New CoAcnant and to manage all the visible affairs, of 
God's Spiritual Kingdom in this world, until the end of 

Many {)art.s of G(;d's v.ord and waysaremysteriou.s; ma- 
ny truths and duties of Religion cannot be known, excep^ 
from Revelation, and many are neglected oroj)posed by the 
unrcMicwed heart, because they cannot be attended to, with- 
out nuich self-denial. Bnt God is desirous, that men should 
so act as to sccui-e his fiwor. And as they are naturally 
averse to tins, in the multitude of his mercies, he not only 
bestov.s Jipon them the influences of his Spirit, but he also 
^ends his messengers to them, to persuade them to v, oik out 
tiieir own salvation, and to dispense to them all those sacred 
and mysterious truths, which should habitually infli!er)Ce 
their conduct.. The Ministers of the Gospel are, therefore 
in their letter of instructions, stiled «* The Sieivards of the 


Mysteries of God." For they are sent and they are official- 
ly bound to dispense his truths, to administer his ordinan] 
ces,_and thus to establish, extend and perpetuate his Church. 
By nature, man is in a state of" enmity against God;'* 
and though, through tlie atoning blood of Jesus Christ, God 
is reconcileable to man, still man must first be reconciled 
to God, by submitting to his government and by being cre- 
ated anew in his image, before God can acknowledge him 
as his child and deal with him as a reconciled Father with 
his penitent, though once prodigal Son. And this " min- 
istrij oj reconciliation,'' the Lord of Hosts has committed to 
his Messengers. They are sent to proclaim peace on earth 
and good will to men, and to use all their influence, to re_ 
concile men to God, by bringing them over to the obedience 
of his laws. They are sent to act as watchmen also, on the 
walls of Zion, to preside over the interests of the Church, 
to protect it from harm, to repel the assaults of its foes and 
to warn tlieir peo])le against dangei-, as well as to preserve 
them from evil. They are sent for ' the edification of the 
tody of Christ,*' to be "ensamples to the flock," and help- 
ers of their joy," to shew the way in which they should 
walk and the work they should do, to " hear the word at 
the mouth of the Lord,"iind to "give the people warning;" 
to "shew the people their transgressions and the house of 
Jacob their sins." They are sent to act, as " stewards of 
the household of God,'* and as the Shepherds of his Flock, to 
" give them their meat in due season," to " feed them with 
the sincere milk of the word,"and with "the bread of life;" 
to lead them to that " fountain of living water," which is 
" opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness,'* 
and in fine, to watch over the spiritual and eternal inter- 
ests of all, that are committed to their care. Hence the 


Lord caut'ons all ln's messensjprs, " Take head to thyself 
and to thy doctrines and continue in them, that so do- 
ing, thou mayestbothsave thyself and those that hear thee.** 
*<Take heed to thyself and to the flock over which the Holy 
Ghost hath made the Overseer ; warning every man ahd 
teaching every man, that thou mayest present every one 
perfect in Christ Tesus.'* " Preach the word, be instant 
in season and out of season," that is, whether it be conve- 
nient to you or not. Reprove, rebuke, exhoi-t with all long 
suffering and doctrine," <* Accomplish the work of an E- 
vangelist," Make full proof of thy Ministry." « Watch 
for souls, as those that must give account." 

The Messengers of the Lord of Hosts are also sent, as 
*'lahourers together with God-,** and they are required to make 
themselves " workmen that need not to be ashamed ; right- 
ly dividing the word of truth." By his providences, by his 
word and by his spirit, God is labouring to reclaim the 
Children of men from their evil ways, and to bring them o- 
ver to the service of tlie Lord. The messengers of the Lord 
of Hosts are employed in this same work, and they are tliere- 
fore called " fellow-workers with God." And as they la- 
bour to bring men to the light of the truth and to diffuse that 
light abroad over the whole earth ; as likewise, through 
their instrumentality, the gospel becomes the meansof pre- 
serving multitudes from sin and everlasting ruin, they are 
described as being the *«salt of the earth, and the light of th^ 
word,"pnd they are required to retain and exercise their 
preserving qualities and to let their "light shine, to theglo- . 
ry of their heavenly father." 

In fine, the messengers of the Lord of Hosts are sent, to 
establish,' to preserve and h) govern the visible Chnrchoi God 
on earth, to manage all its concerns, to extend its influence 


iiVd. to spread t'le Gospel over t];e whole T^orld, to explain^ 
to teach and to enforce those laws, which the Kin.t^of Kiiig-g 
lias published for the government of his intellijjent creatures 
in this section of his dominions, to reclaim as many as pos- 
sible, ofthose who have rebelled against his authority and 
his government, for the purpose of thus rescuing tljeni from 
impending destruction aiid securing to tliem, through the 
peace speaking blood of Jesus, a new and glorious title to 
immortal life and happiness ; they are .^ent to direct every 
sincere enquirer, to comfort every penitent mourner, to set 
up a holy example to all around them, administer the sa- 
craments and ordinances of the Church, to ♦« contend earn- 
estly for the faith once delivered to the saints, " to " jiold 
fast the form of sound words," and all those invaluable insti. 
tutions, which by the kind providence of our God, have been 
preserved from a thousand dangers and transmitted in safe- 
ty, to our times, and to expose the errors, unmask the de- 
signs and repel tlie attempts of all those who mutilate, per 
vert or adulterate tlie blessed word of God. 

Such my Brethren, is the official character of the Gospel 
Minister. Such are the source, the design and the extent 
of his authority. He is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts, 
and such is his message, such are his functions and such 
his poAvers. 

Vfecome now secondly, to consider the duties of the Gospel 
Minister. His lips must keej) knowledge. This expresses 
but two main branches of his duty, knowledge and teacii- 
ing ,- but all the rest are impliedin his official character, and 
Hiay with ease bs inferred from what has already been said. 

The first requisite of every Gospel Mvister is 'holiness. 
An?l though tliis is not menMoned in the tp-Kt, it mrtainly is 
implied. God is holy, his law is holy, he wishes us to be- 

come holy. Hn sends his Mosscnj^ers to turn us " fi'om sin 
to holiness," he reveals " his wrath aj^ainst all iinriglit- 
eonsness and unj^odlincss of men," and he declares, that 
« without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Is it not 
then necessary, that when t!ie God of Holiness, employs his 
accents to tnrn men fi-omsin to holiness, those aj;ents should 
themselves be holy ? The work of the ministry is a bo'y 
work. Are unholy persons fit fc^r such employment ? Can 
light and darkness hold communion to2;ether? Can the chil- 
dren of Satan he employed in erecting the kingdom of God ? 
Can they preach with holy zeal against sin, who themselves 
live in the habitual practice of it ? Can they teach others who 
have never been taught themselves ? Can theblind lead tijc 
blind ? What can we expect from the unrenewed preacher, 

but cold, barren, vague inefficient, and uninteresting views of 
faith, repentence, humility, love and every other holy du- 
ty ? How can he teach others, what he has never experien- 
ced himself, and what cannot be fully undei-stood, excej)tby 
personal experience? In fine, how can he, who is carnal ia 
his views, over whose heart is spread an impenetrable veil 
of Ignorance and error, who is still walking in spiritual 
darkness, how can such a one duly direct the enquirer on 
his way to Zion ? How can he comfort those who are mourn- 
ing for their sins ? Howcan he teach the christian in his sni- 
tual warfare, to grajiple with his spiritual foes ? How caa 
he, adequately describe those holy tempers, qualities and 
dispositions, and those pious exercises of heart, to which he 
is an utter stranger ? Above all, how can he set them a god- 
ly example ? Unholy Ministers cannot properly do these 
things, and even if they had the ability, they have not the 
disposition and they cannot, therefore, discharge their du- 
ties as Messengers of the Lord of Hosts. Holiness of heart 


and life ther, is essciitiailj necessary to the Gospel Mes» 

Besides, no one can be in the full sense of the expression, 
a Messen^^erof the Lord of Hosts, unless he is called and 
^ent hif the Lord, as well as by man. He must be ouhvard- 
hj *^ called of God, as was ^ar on ^^ and he muRtbe f* inward. 
hj mored hy the holy Ghost," as he professes to be in the 
•^rdination service. If he has been ordained by those who 
derive their ordaining po^Yer in a directline iromthe Apos- 
tles, he has indeed an outward and a valid call to ministe- 
rial labours. He may be quite useful, and as long as he is 
not Sagrantly deficient, \ve are bound to respect him as the 
Messenger of tlie Lord of Hosts. But nevertheless, if he is 
not honest and zealous and faithful in the sacred cause, from 
a love of God, a love of Religion and a love of Souls, he 
never has been moved by the Holy Ghost, he never has re. 
ceived an inward call from God ; and as long as he con- 
tinues in tliis state, God may indeed bless his labours to o- 
thers but he will never regard them as an acccptiblc ser- 
vice on his own account ; and though he should say "Lord, 
Lord, have I not prophecicd in thy nan?,e, and in thy name, 
cast out devils and in thy r^ame, done many ^^onderfal 
\vorks ; he must expect the appalling answer, " I never 
knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'* 

Holiness of heart and life are then, necessary qualifica- 
tions for the oSicial characters of the Lords Messengers. 
Though others may be outwardly called, the Spirit of God 
would inwardly call none but such j nor should any re- 
ceive or apply for ordination, until they are conscious of 
such holy desires and resolutions to serve God, in his Chui'chj 
^Jiat they have reason to believe and declare themselves, 
<« called and moved by the Holy Ghost to the work of the 

Let it then be repeated, holiness of heart and life are ne- 
cessary ill the onicial character of the Lord's Messcngci's, 
hccsLixsQ they cannoi vroperlij ddivcr their message or fulfil 
their mission without them. They are required to he '•^hobjy^ 
to »' take heed to themselves and tlieir doctrine," and to set 
a hoJy example before their ilocks. They are required as 
faithful Stewards, to tlispciisc the mysteries of God, to '-feed 
the lambs and the shcon," to be the " salt of the earth and 
the lii^'ht of the world.'* These duties they cannot possibly 
perform unless their hearts and lives are devoted to God's 
service. Finally, the messengers of the Lord should be 
holy men, because this is expressly required of them, under 
the severest penalties. " Be ye holy, that bear the vessels 
of tlie Lord." " Thou, man of God, follow after right" 
eousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." "Be 
thou an example to believers, in word, in conversation, in 
charity, in spirit, in faitlj, in purity." *'ln all things shev/ 
thyself a pattern of good \Yorks." « Wo to the Shepherds 
that feed not the flock." " Wo be to the pastors that de- 
stroy and scatter the Sheep of my pasture saith the Lord." 
" Wo unto you ye blind guides." 

The second requisite of the Gospel Minister is hnow'edge. 
We use this word here, in a restricted sense. In scriptuve 
and in our text, it has a very extensive signification. The 
Minisier cf the Gospel ought to have an experimental, as well 
as ascientifc knowledge of religion. His knowledge ought 
to arise, not only from memory and reasoning but also from 
''his own consciousness. And when he speaks of repentance 
and faith of humility and charity, of the love and the fear of 
God, of the Christian's hopes and joys and, prospects, of his 
spiritual struggles, his holy tempers and the heavenly ex- 
ercise of his heart, the messenger of the Lord ought to be 

able to understand and illustrate all these from his own his- 
tory, character and personal experience, as well as from 
observation, tlis testimony of others and the word of God. 
And both these kinds of knowledge are intended in the text. 
But the former has already been considered under holiness 
of jicart, and the latter is only apart of the knowledge we 
possess. Besides that knowledge which may be collected 
from experience as well as from scripture, there is much 
other knowledge with which every Minister of the Lord 
Jesus ought to be familiar. And whatever piety or zeal 
may be alleged in extenuation, the literary ignorai»ce of 
many \Aho undertake to preach the Gospel, is evei-y vi here 
producing the most lamentable effects and is an evil, against 
which, the Church of God, o^ight to raise the most effectual 
and competent barriers. 

llany stand always ready to weaken the influence of our 
labours by doubting, disputing and denying the trutli of re- 
velation and we ought theiefore to be able to '* stop the 
mouths of gainsayers; " " to give a reason for the hope 
that is in us;" to hold the infidel up to view, in all his weak- 
ness; to expose all his artifices, substitutes and sophistry; to 
hunt him from every point at which he takes his stand, and 
from every subterfuge under which he conceals the weak- 
ness of his cause and to establish the truth of the holy ora- 
cles upon the broad basis of reason and philosophy, of histo- 
ry and fact. 

Multitudes disfigure, prevent and "render of none effect, 
the word of God," by their bold, their ignorant and their 
licentious interpretations ; while others cavil at its myste- 
ries, deny its spirituality or fritter it down into a spiritless 
syslem of morals. As we are bound to " hold fast the form 
of sound words," and " sharply to rebuke those who ar* 


not sound in the faitli," as all perversion of scripture is more 
or less dangerous to morals and piety, and as we cannot 
*< fulfil our ministry,'* unless we guard cur flocks against 
the errors, the d :;n:;'ers and tlie temptations that surround 
them, we ought, ifpossihle. to be so universally and min- 
utely acquainted with the scriptures, both in the originals 
and the translation, as to be able, satisfactorily, to expose 
all error and enthusiasm, to answer every argument and ob- 
jection that are adduced in their support, and to c^btablish 
every scriptural truth and duty, by the sober canons of sa- 
bred criticism, and by a particular reference to that which 
mast decide all religious controversy, « the law and th« 

Much knowledge too is necessary, to enable us to an- 
s\yer all the objections, to remove all the difficulties, to ex- 
ptise all the errors and to relieve as fiir as possible, the spi- 
ritual wants ahd maladies of our flocks. Without much ex- 
j)eriniental, mucli scriptural and much general knowledge, 
our stock will soon be exhausted, we shall do little more 
than travel the same beaten tiack over and over again, and 
our hearers will be compelled to suffer for our mental im- 
potence and literary sterility. ; 

Much critical, historical, theological, scriptural and ex-^ 
experimental knowledge then, is necessary to enable the 
Messengers of the Lord to perform their duty. As they are 
not authoiized to preach, unless they are called of God and 
duly ordained by man, so they are not qualified to preach, 
unless they have something more than mere piety and zeal 
and a little imperfect knowledge of scripture, to recommend 

The Priest's lips should keep knowledge. This does not 
mean merely, that the Priest should possess knowledge, but 
also that he should xisc it, for the benefit of the people. Our 

piety, our knowledge and our zeal should all be employed in 
the service of God and of his Church. Our flocks stand in 
need of all the instruction we can possibly give them, and 
all the knowledge we possess, is to be laid out to their ad- 
vantage, both in public and in private. We must let our 
light shine. We must improve our talents, and make full 
proof of our ministry. 

My Brethren, has the Lord of Hosts sent his own Mes- 
sengers to address you ? Has be given it in charge, that the 
Priest's lips should keep knowledge — that they should not 
satisfy themselves with ignorant, ur. substantial and declam- 
atory discourses, but that they should be competent to "han- 
dle the word of God" ably and wisely ? Remember, all this 
is for your edification, and yoii are required to seek the law 
at our mouth. This is the third head of discourse. If the 
Priest's lips must keep knowledge, it is that the people should 
seek the law at his mouth. 

The law of God, my brethren, contains the rule of our con- 
duct — the statutes of Jehovah's kingdom, by which we are 
to be governed and judged. And though every one ought to 
be familiar with these laws, because they are of infinite im- 
portance and easy to be had and understood, yet man is prone 
to neglect them, to misunderstand them, to misapply them ; 
^)ronc to undervalue and to find fault with them, and so prone 
to disobey them, that he breaks them from day to day. High 
and dreadful as are the sanctions and penalties they contain ; 
great and glorious as are the blessings they promise ; rea- 
sonable and useful and necessary as is our compliance with 
their demands — still, through forgetfiilncss and through our 
natural aversion to the spirituality and the restraints of the 
holy laws of God, we are constantly in need nf being remind- 
ed of them, and urged to obey them. 


Now, this is the main purpose for which the Lord of Hosts 
sends us his Messengers ; and wc ought therefore, to "take 
the more earnest heed to what they say." They are sent to 
promote our spiritual and everlasting good, and wc ought 
therefore to receive and listen to them witli gratitude and 
pleasure. It is the love of God that sends them_ His anx- 
iety to make us holy, in order to prepare us for future hap 
piness, induces him to employ tliem in the cause 
of our salvation. And as it is reasonable for us to love hap- 
piness and to dread misery, it is equally reasonable tliat wo 
should eagerly, joyfully and thankfully hail and receive the 
Messengers of the Lord. To he deprived of them is a sore 
judgment, and to enjoy the benefits of a pious, learned and 
evangelical ministry is, next to life, the greatest of human 

Divine Providence has blessed you, my brethren, with a 

settled Pastor. I pray you remember that he is the Messen- 
ger of the Lord of Hosts, and that it is youi- duty to seek the 
law at his mouth. Both in public and in private, respect 
his character and office, for they are sacred. Give heed to 
his instructions, for he delivers a message from God. At- 
tend regularly to his ministrations, for he is appointed to 
watch over your souls and to feed ymi with the bread of life. 
His duties are awfully great, responsible and holy — assist, 
encourage and deal tenderly and liberally with him. Re- 
member, he teaches in the name and by the authority of God, 
and you will have to answer in the day of judgment, for the 
i!se you make of his instructions. Seek the law, therefore, 
at his mouth, both in public and in private. Have yoa dif- 
ficulties, or doubts, or fears — do you need instruction, ad- 
vice or comfort — behold your Shepherd, your guide, your 

counsellor, your friend, your comforter. Seek at his mouth* 
publicly and privately, that you may learn, both your spir- 
itual interests, and your spiritual duties. 


My RevM. Brother, and yoa my Brethren, wha are now 
to be admitted to the Holy order of Deacons, the vows of God 
already are, or soon will be upon yoiT. Great as is the Lord 
of FTosts, whose Messen.i^ers you become, inestimably im- 
portant as are the souls that may be committed to your 
char.i^p, awful as is the account which you must one day ren- 
der to 3'our God, so great, so important and so awful are 
yo'ir high and holy duties. Immortal souls will be entrust- 
ed to your care, and you will be to them, the " savour of 
life" or " of death." If with holy ^eal and a heart cruci- 
f ed to the world, you faithfully discharge your sacred trust, 
the divine blessing will rest upon your labours — you will 
have the pleasure of seeing the work of the Lord prosper in 
your hands — through your instrumentality, many will be 
converted unto God, and in that day, when the Lord Jesus 
<« makes up his jewels," having turned many to righteous- 
ness, you will "shine as the brightness of the firmament, and 
as the stars forever and ever," 

On the contrary, should you evince yourself the faithless 
Shepherd — should you act the part of the hireling, who nei- 
ther feeds, nor watches over the flock — many poor souls 
would perish, but their blood would be required at your 
hands. I beseech you therefore, brethren, that you strive, 
habitually, to keep alive in your hearts, a deep sense of the 
infinite value of souls, of the importance of your duties, and 
of your awful responsibility. Whatever yon do, wherever 
you go, carry with you a holy solicitude for the immortal in- 
terests of your flock ; and never cease your labour, your care 
and diligence, until ymi have done all thai lieth in yon, to 
bring all that are committed to your charge, to agreement in 
the faith and knowledge of God, and to ripeness, and perfect- 
ness of age in Christ. 

Tims, through God's mercy in Christ, will you " both 
save yourself and those who hear you ;" and when the great 


Shephori! of the Sheep appeareth, you will be abls to render 
i?i "your* account with joy," and hear that blessed sentence 
from the lips of your Judge — "Well done, thou good and 
faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord." 

NO TICUy IS hereby given that t/ie 
wex^ Annual Convention of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church in Norths Carolina, will 
he holden on Saturday the 2Sth day of A" 
pril 1821 at 11 o^ clock in the forenoon, in 
the City of Raleigh* All those concerned 
will govern themselves accordingly. 

, Of the Convention.